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Letter to Harvey Goldsmith, Promoter & Producer of Live 8

Harvey Goldsmith
Promoter & Producer of Live 8
Harvey Goldsmith Entertainment
via email at harvey@harveygoldsmith.com

Dear Harvey:

I was pleased to learn of the efforts of Bob Geldorf and Live 8 to bring to the attention of the world, issues of widespread poverty and injustice. However, I was chagrined to learn that Live 8 was considering Coca-Cola as a sponsor. I am the director of the worldwide Campaign to Stop Killer Coke (www.killercoke.org), which seeks to hold The Coca-Cola Co. accountable for gross human rights abuses at its bottling plants in Colombia. At the same time, our Campaign is educating the public about Coke's widespread crimes and misdeeds worldwide and supporting others in their struggles against the beverage giant.

The World of Coca-Cola is a world full of lies, deception, immorality, corruption, and gross human rights and environmental abuses. The International Labor Rights Fund (www.LaborRights.org) and the United Steelworkers of America filed a lawsuit against The Coca-Cola Co. and its Colombian bottlers in 2001 on behalf of SINALTRAINAL, a Colombian union that represents workers at Coca-Cola bottling plants; several of its members and the survivors of Isidro Gil, one of its murdered officers. The lawsuit charges that Coca-Cola bottlers "contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders." After Isidro Gil was murdered and the union crushed at his plant, wages dropped from $380 a month to $130.

SINALTRAINAL union leader Juan Carlos Galvis, who will be speaking at the G8 Alternative Summit, narrowly escaped assassination in August 2003. Juan Carlos told me: "If we lose the fight against Coca-Cola, we will first lose our union, next our jobs and then our lives."

The workforce now employed in the "Coca-Cola system" in Colombia is about ten thousand workers, but about 95 per cent of these are "flexible" workers. They are considered sub-contracted employees, have no union representation, receive low pay, no benefits and have no job security or a future with the company. Many of them are mired in poverty and live in the slums of Colombia.

In January 2004, New York City Council Member and former police officer Hiram Monserrate led a delegation on a 10-day, fact-finding tour to Colombia to investigate allegations of human rights violations by Coca-Cola. As one member said upon returning, "We heard one story after another of torture and injustice. The sheer number of these testimonials was overwhelming." The delegation issued a scathing report in April concluding that "Coca-Cola is complicit in human rights abuses of its workers in Colombia" — and its "complicity is deepened by its repeated pattern of bringing criminal charges against union activists who have spoken out about the company's collusion with paramilitaries." (The full report and other supporting information can be read by going to www.KillerCoke.org and clicking on the Monserrate report and appendices.)

Beyond crimes in Colombia, Coke's well-documented record against the global public interest include:

  • Turning farmland into wasteland through the overexploitation and pollution of water sources in India and elsewhere (www.indiaresource.org)
  • Benefiting from hazardous child labor in sugar cane fields in El Salvador as documented by Human Rights Watch
  • Aggressive marketing to children of nutritionally worthless and damaging products
  • Aggressively lobbies against bottle deposit bills that promote recycling and help protect the environment
  • History of racial discrimination
  • Anti-worker policies
  • Top executives reward themselves hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses and stock options while laying off thousands of employees.
  • Firing whistleblowers
  • Fraudulent business practices
  • Massive tax avoidance

The Coca-Cola Co. is a major supporter of free trade agreements such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that exploits workers and natural resources. Coca-Cola belongs to the US Council for International Business (USCIB), an industry lobby group that claims to represent "some 300 U.S. companies." The USCIB lobbied U.S. Pres. George W. Bush urging him to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol.

In addition, I was surprised to be referred to Clear Channel when I called LD Publicity and asked to speak to someone about corporate sponsorships. Clear Channel is widely viewed in the United States as a mean-spirited corporation that supported George Bush's election. When the Dixie Chicks criticized Bush, Clear Channel was associated with an anti-Dixie Chicks campaign which involved banning their music from their stations and smashing CDs at protests organized and advertised by Clear Channel. (See a brief commentary from the Center for Media and Democracy at: http://www.prwatch.org/node/1833). Beyond that, Clear Channel is known for being highly anti-union. I would not expect Clear Channel to apply a corporate ethics screen in considering possible sponsors for Live 8.

Please let me know how you plan to handle the Coca-Cola sponsorship issue.

Peace & Justice,

Ray Rogers
Director
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke

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